Dramatic Texts >> Levon Shant >> The Princess of the Fallen Castle

THE PRINCESS OF THE FALLEN CASTLE by Levon Shant, translated by Anne T. Vardanian
 
 
Characters
PRINCESS ANNA - Tall, slender and beautiful, about 30.
SHAGHINEH - Anna's lady-in-waiting. She is about 26-30 years of age, of average height, thin and fragile.
ZAHBET - Anna's elderly nurse.
MAID-SERVANT - A fairly young woman.
PRINCE VASIL - The Lord of Kessoun, about 50, of average height, somewhat portly.
PRINCE SEBOUH- Vasil's elder son, about 26-27 years old. He is shorter than his father, and rather slim and pale.
PRINCE ADOM -Vasil's younger son, about 23-24. He is tall and energetic.
PRINCE GAMSARAGAN - A young man about 30-35, in Vasil's service.
PRINCE ABERAD - The eldest Prince in Vasil's service. He is about 60-65 and wise in demeanor.
PRINCESS SOPHIA- A Greek princess who is now Prince Vasil's second wife. She is about 40, and has a proud demeanor.
IRINA - Sophia's lady-in-waiting. She is of average height, thin and bony, about 37 years of age.
ANDRONICUS- Sophia's uncle, getting on in years, about 60.
SHAHIN - An advisor to Prince Vasil.
A PRIEST - Of middle age, in Prince Vasil's Manor.
CARETAKER - In Prince Vasil's service, about 60-65.
A PALACE GUARD - An official in Prince Vasil's Manor.
LAME OUSEP - A peasant in the service of Vasil, from the village of Orzoun.
HAMAZASP - An official of Prince Vasil's court.
KHOURSHID - A crude-looking, short, muscular man. Vasil's strong-arm executioner.
Various guards, soldiers and citizens of the manor.
* This cast list was prepared by the translator and did not appear in the Armenian original.
 
ACT I
Scene I

 
The living quarters in a fortress. It is a wide hall and halfway upstage there is a row of pillars through which can be seen the outer courtyard. The salon is furnished with rugs and couches. At one side of the stage, there is a tall, thick candleholder with a dim, smoky flame. Outside, it is a bright moonlit night.
 
Princess Anna sits motionless on a couch. She is rigid and statuesque, wearing an informal white gown. She is a tall, beautiful woman, about thirty years old. Her long black hair hangs in two partially disheveled braids. Near her stands Shaghineh, a delicate, slender lady-in-waiting, her arms crossed on her chest, her head bowed in deep mourning. On the floor, huddled near Anna's feet, sits her elderly wet-nurse, Zahbet, fully-clad in black. Slightly behind and apart from them, stands a maidservant dabbing her tears with a handkerchief. There are voices and approaching footsteps. Zahbet raises her head quickly.
 
ZAHBET
(Raises her head quickly.)
Who is it? What do they want?
 
MAID-SERVANT
It's them. Those savages . . . They're disgusting! They've posted guards at all the doors and passages.

SHAGHINEH
A curse on them!
 
ZAHBET
(Gently touching the Princess' knee.) Well, do something. Say something!
 
SHAGHINEH
Weep my Princess. . Shed your tears. It helps to let them go. . You see I'm crying with you. .
 
ANNA
I see your grief and your tears . . . You should weep, Shaghineh . . . Your husband fell together with mine. Like mine, he was brave, noble and fine. Now, you are a widow too. . Yes, weep Shaghineh, for tomorrow they will drag you to the enemy's doorstep, You have every right to cry . . . But, you had no children they could kill, no children they could.slaughter!
 
SHAGHINEH
Oh no, don't speak of it!
 
ZAHBET
(Firmly.) Let her speak!

ANNA
It was a bright, cool morning last Easter as we sat in the courtyard, while they slaughtered the lambs. I held little Tzolak on my lap and he watched the ceremony with childish awe. I covered my eyes to hide my tears so you would not laugh at me. The day they killed the innocent lambs! (She springs up suddenly and says to Zahbet) My children, where are my children, Zahbet? My sons, where are my two sons? Why aren't they inside? Look it's completely dark. . It's time for them to go to bed. Have you made their beds and laid out their nightgowns? (She sits limply, her hands clasped to her chest, and moans.) Oh, , Oh ..
 
SHAGHINEH
Calm yourself Princess, calm yourself!

ANNA
I will . . . Soon . . .Soon, I will be calm forever beside my sons. (Irritated.) But first I must see the man that killed my husband. . The man who seized my home and slaughtered my children. I must see him! I don't know why, but I must! I want to look deep into his eyes and then . . . then I will be at rest.

ZAHBET
Some day, we will all be at rest.

ANNA
Some day yes. Here we are a stone's throw away from the battlements. Just a short leap and I could be with them forever. They have been murdered and flung into the gorge like two dead dogs. That is what they said. Now they lie there, their little torn bodies covered with blood, but upon what rock and in what forlorn corner?
 
SHAGHINEH
Don't cry my Princess, do not grieve so.
 
ANNA
They may be on the very rock I sat upon with my beloved Joseph, one warm afternoon. It was a lovely warm day and the waters gushed so wildly we could hardly hear each other speak. The old walnut tree spread its sleepy branches over us. I leaned my head on Joseph's shoulder and watched the dancing waves shimmer and foam. . . And I thought that there could be no other fortress in the world like mine nor could there be another river in the world like our Gaboudan River. There could never be another man in the world like my own dear Joseph or another woman in the world as lucky as me. (A short silence). But now, those poor little bodies have fallen
there, beneath the broken branches of the walnut tree . . . the broken branches of my soul.
 
SHAGHINEH
Don't, my lady, don't torture yourself!
 
ANNA
It's alright, Shaghineh. Don't be afraid. . We're just a few steps away from the top of the boulder . . . I'll be there soon, my little ones ... I won't leave you alone ... I won't, I won't!
 
MAID SERVANT
(Runs towards the pillars.) Princess, there are some men coming. There ... a crowd, with torches!
 
ANNA
They are? (She stands up, rigid and proud.) Let them come. I am well prepared!

SHAGHINEH
A curse on them!
 
The Prince of Kessoun* and his men enter Upstage Center in the following order. Four soldiers carrying lighted torches are the first to enter. They are followed by a group of high-ranking officers, among whom are Prince Gamsaragan and Prince Aberad. Behind them is Prince Vasil of Kessoun, with his two sons. Several guards follow them and stand in the background. Prince Vasil is in his early fifties. He is of average height, somewhat overweight, slightly greying and has an alert, intelligent expression. His older son, Sebouh, is about 26 or 27 years of age, is shorter, slim and pale. He is a shy and sensitive young man. His brother Adorn is about 23 or 24 years old, and the exact opposite of Sebouh. Adorn is tall, wears a bright cheerful expression, is outgoing and aggressive. Prince Gamsaragan is young, alert and has a confident air. Prince Aberad is an older man, whose life's experiences give him an aura of wisdom and humility. * Kessoun - a city of considerable Armenian culture. At this time, it was the main rallying point for the Armenian people. A strategic point of contact for early Crusaders. The Cilician Kingdom of Armenia, Boase, p.4.231  
 
PRINCE VASIL
This is one more fort that God has delivered to me. I am very proud to be standing here in this newly conquered fort which only yesterday, belonged to my stubborn enemy. But now, it is mine, under my command! My brawny comrades, this is the ninth fort that we have conquered together, with our arms and our might. They are my lands, all the way to Marash, they are my forts and my manors . . . All in my hands. They belong to the Prince of Kessoun! From now on, this will be an unconquerable fort. This towering stronghold of Tauros dazzles the Greeks and the Romans, the Iconians and the Seljuks, and whets their insatiable appetites . . .! Let them dare approach it! (He takes a step toward Anna. He gazes at her and speaks with some humility.) Madam, your husband gave me a very hard time. He was a brave man and resisted me bravely for four whole months, until I took his fort.

ANNA
That is not true! You schemed and plotted. . You stole this fort from him! (Pointing to Prince Gamsaragan.) Yes, that man, that black-hearted villain beside you, who fled from the Seljuks! When he was crushed and forlorn he knocked at our castle gates and we accepted him as we would a brother . . . and cared for him as we would a brother. Behold that man now! The man who betrayed our hospitality and opened our gates to you. He should be proud, not you! Why you? You did not accomplish the seizure of this fort. No, you accomplished the murder of innocent children. You can take pride in that!

PRINCE VASIL
(Soberly.) This fort was in the center of all my lands, like a splinter in my palm. (Agitated.) I had to seize it. This mighty boulder must be mine, always! And for this reason, there can be no other claims . . . no other heirs! Hereafter, this fort is mine and its only heirs are my children!
 
ANNA
(A long pause, a new awareness settles upon her.) Ah ... your children . . .?
 
PRINCE VASIL
(Icily.) Yes, Madam.
 
ANNA
Yes, you have children ... I had heard. You have two sons.
 
PRINCE VASIL
Yes, Madam, two sons. They are standing there before you. This is the younger one. He was the first to dash through the gates of your fort . . . Your father is proud of you Adom. Bravo! I watched your bold attack with great satisfaction. This is my elder son. (Pointing to Sebouh.)
 
SEBOUH
Observe Madam, that my father has no praise for me! I did not crash the entrance to your fort with a bare sword in my hand. . I came neutrally and I have neither plundered nor shed blood in your home.
 
PRINCE VASIL
I spared your pride and said nothing. You had better spare yourself and be silent!
 
SEBOUH
Father, I have always begged you not to include me in your battles or your victories!
 
PRINCE VASIL
No, I could never allow that! My own flesh and blood must walk my path.
 
ABERAD
Prince, do not get angry. We cannot all be alike. He too, will follow you, do not worry. . Somewhat slowly, but he will. (To Sebouh, softly.) You must my son, you must join us. You must live it, my son, experience it. Then you will get used to it ... You must get used to this. It is the only practical way of life. It is necessary. Shall we go, Prince?
 
PRINCE VASIL
Soon. You must understand, Madam, that hereafter it will no longer be possible for you to remain in this fort. Where do you wish to be taken? How can we assist you? I do not wish to cause you any further distress. Tell me, what can I do for you.
 
(ANNA remains silent.)
 
PRINCE VASIL
Speak ... do not hesitate. What do you want? What do you need?
 
ANNA
I want to be rid of your presence!

(There is a slight commotion in the group.)
 
ABERAD
The Prince was too charitable to you!
 
PRINCE VASIL
(Takes a step closer to Anna and looks stubbornly at her face.)
So, you want to tear me to shreds and throw me to the dogs! Is that it? Look here. . . I heard you were beautiful and it is true, but that flame I see in your eyes is beyond anything I have ever seen before! Your face, your body, your whole being, has just pierced me with your loathing. And yet, it gives me pleasure. Do you enjoy a good fight? Good, so do I! I accept your challenge, right now. I want to know you better, more closely. (Turns to the rest.) Tomorrow morning at sunrise, we will start our journey and arrive at Kessoun at sunset. Prepare yourselves, all of you. Gamsaragan, this woman is right. You have done me a great service! It is my practice to promptly reward my allies. Your loyalty shall be repaid with immediate gains. This fort, whose doors you have opened to me, and all that surrounds it, I yield to you, to your management and patronage. You are still very young and I will offer some advice with your new position. Do not annoy the peasants. They are the ones who give us our bread and our soldiers. They are very vital to our cause. As for your subordinate ate officers, always remember the maxim, "live and let live." Prince Aberad, you will personally take charge of transporting all the gold, silver, and other valuables. Manuel will take charge of the prisoners. Now, let us go to our troops and dispatch our orders. (He exits as his entire group follows him out).

(The ladies have been standing by tensely, while Princess Anna upholds her proud bearing.)

ANNA
(Suddenly.)
He has children, he has children.
 
SHAGHINEH
(Stopping her.) No, Princess, do not do it! It is useless!
 
ANNA
Let go, let go of me. Let me see ... He has two children, two gallant young sons. . Let me see.
 
SHAGHINEH
A curse on him and his sons! Do not do anything crazy! What good is it? Why should you die? If you should die, what would I do?
 
ANNA
Die? Who said that? How, how can I die? Didn't you hear him? He has two children. Didn't you see his two sons? Until those boys die, I cannot die ... I cannot rest. There is hope now, a bright new ray of hope in my soul. Let you be witness to my vow . . . Let this chamber be my witness. Here, where I loved and was loved, where I gave birth to my children and experienced their joy . . . where they tore my children out of my arms and slaughtered them with their swords. May the heavens above be my vow. They must die! His two children must die, those two gallant young men. One for each of mine. My gift to you, my tender little ones. Who knows where you are lying now? Near what rock, what thorny bush, without a burial ... A feast for the wolves!
 
ZAHBET
That is enough! Tomorrow I will personally go to the valley and look for them. When I find them, I will bury them with my own hands.
 
ANNA
Yes, you have held them in your lap and cared for them. Yes, yes, go and find them and settle them in the earth. And tell them, tell them that I can not be there yet. Whisper softly in their ears that I still have work-to do. (Laughs hysterically.) Ha, Ha, ha..! Do you understand? He has two sons . . . two young sons!
 
(PRINCE VASIL enters suddenly with two guards.)
 
PRINCE VASIL
(To the guards.) Guard the entrance. Do not allow anyone to enter, no one! And you Madam, order your servants to bring me a jug of wine. I know you will have some. The Armenian home is an hospitable one. (Sternly.) Well, old lady, didn't you hear me? A jug of wine and two chalices. Hurry! Move those weary legs of yours! (Zahbet exits.) I am very tired and thirsty. I have been on my feet all day, attending my troops. But, that is as it should be. My troops have made this victory possible. Your fort is quite large and well-constructed, Madam. It has many levels, secret nooks and corners. It tired me out so I have come here to rest. Yes, tonight I will rest under your roof, as your guest, your very own guest. (Zahbet brings the wine.) You have the wine. Wonderful! Put it down. As for you, get lost immediately! Use the door or the window, or just vanish through the floor . . . Just go! (To Shaghineh.) You, too, disappear! I want no one here!

ANNA
You will stay here! No one will leave this room!
 
PRINCE VASIL
(Stamping his foot.) Out! And draw the curtains.
 
ZAHBET
Prince, may God in heaven . . .
 
PRINCE VASIL
(Interrupting.) Who has delivered this fort to me! Hurry . . . out! I do not even want to see your shadow! Draw the curtains. (Sits on the couch and waits until the curtains are drawn. Princess Anna stands fixed in the same position.) Madam, it does not become you to stand before me in this fashion, so alarmed. Even though you are defeated and furious, there's no harm. It's alright . . . Come here, come and sit down, won't you? What are you thinking? Why so stubborn? Why so still? Is it your husband you are thinking of? A whole day has gone by already and you are still thinking of him? (Serious.) It was a flame that burned on a candle. You blew it and it went out. If you want to re-kindle that flame, you will need a new spark to ignite . . . (He fills the chalices with wine.) You said you hate me. If you really do, take this chalice and drink to me. Drink it down and hate me that way, me with the wine on your lips . . . because I love your loathing ...the way I love your wine. Wine is the liquid fury of the grape. . It is the harvested passion of the vine. (She flings her arm out and pushes the chalice to the floor. The Prince smiles and gazes in her eyes briefly.) Well, if you do not care to, neither do I. (He throws his chalice down.) Today, you will be all the wine that I need. Let me drink the wine from your lips . . . (He walks toward her.)
 
ANNA
(Takes a small knife from the folds of her skirt.) Do not come any further. If you take another step I will kill you!
 
PRINCE VASIL
Oh, is that it? (He stops and appears to withdraw, but suddenly he springs toward her, grabs her wrists, and tries to force the knife out of her hands.)
 
ANNA
No, no . . .1 will not give it to you. Even if you break my arms, I will not give it to you! (While she struggles.)
 
PRINCE VASIL
(Grabs the knife from her.) Oh, look at this tigress, now! Look! (Without releasing her, raises the arm holding the knife above her, and with the other arm, he presses her close to him while she struggles in vain. He kisses her on the lips, then releases her slowly and steps back. She backs away trembling and leans on a pillar nearby.) First, we will throw this little toy aside. Second, you better realize that your childishness will not stop me. You resistance only makes you more desirable! And just to strengthen your resistance, let me remind you that I have killed your husband today. I have eliminated your children, I have devastated your forces, ravaged your fort and invaded your home. I have spread the sheet of my desires over this bed of death and destruction, just as I will spread it now, here on your bed, where I will sleep with you. Right under your roof, where you have slept with your husband, where you have given birth to his children, where . . .

(ANNA, completely drained and horrified, slides slowly against the pillar to the floor. The Prince pauses for a moment and looks, then picks the chalice off the floor, lifts Anna's head slightly in the crest of his arm and tries to revive her.)

 
PRINCE VASIL
This was all in vain . . . And so unbecoming your stature ... so unnecessary! Regardless, I will not let you go. Here . . . Here . . . drink this . . . just a sip to revive you ... to rouse your senses . . . Drink it, drink it I say, drink it!
 
THE LIGHTS DIM SLOWLY.
 
 


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